How I Reported the Story: Everyday Heroes: Claire Mistretta

Read how Olivia Wakim and Sarah Donehoo reported this piece for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution: Everyday Heroes: Claire Mistretta

Olivia Wakim
Sarah Donehoo

I first heard about Fresh Express through my friend, who mentioned there was a food pantry on campus that handed out fresh produce. I thought it was an interesting development, but I didn’t think much of it until Professor Johnston explained what we would be doing for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. I found the organization’s homepage online and decided it would be a unique service to feature. 

Once Professor Johnston approved the organization and sent us the name of the person in charge, Claire Mistretta, Sarah and I reached out to her. She seemed enthusiastic about interviewing for the story, and we were able to schedule a time to meet with her. I had the chance to interview Calvin Rausch, who chose Mistretta for the role. Speaking to Rausch was helpful in offering a more complete view of Mistretta and the impact of Fresh Express on the University of Georgia community. It was particularly informative to hear Rausch talk about how students are able to access the resource anonymously. She said students may not want others to know they’re food insecure or struggling with access, so Fresh Express allows the Student Government Association to serve students in a respectful way that doesn’t broadcast their potential need. Although it’s anonymous, Rausch said she sometimes recognizes the Fresh Express bag on campus and feels good that they were able to serve another student.

Before writing this story, I wanted to make sure I wasn’t overgeneralizing or making blanket statements about students who use the Fresh Express resource. To help inform my interview with Raush and while writing the story, I read “Covering Poverty: What to avoid and how to get it right,” an article listed in the site’s essential reading story. This article made me think more critically about the way I write about issues relating to poverty when it comes to both Mistretta’s story and in the other stories I’m working on at school. After reading the article, I was careful about not relying on stereotypes or vague words to describe the experience of students using the resource. It’s impossible to know what each individual situation is like, so it would have been wrong to make assumptions about a student’s economic situation just because they use the resource.

Although we weren’t able to speak with students who use Fresh Express’ services, I think we had a good variety of sources who could speak on Mistretta and Fresh Express’ impact in the community in a way that respected the students’ anonymity and highlighted Mistretta’s passion for the program. –Olivia Wakim

I arranged an interview with Claire Mistretta to get a sense of her character and why she has chosen to be an executive director for Fresh Express. I interviewed Mistretta at Joe Frank Harris Commons, where Fresh Express is located. She showed me inside the office, which is where they store fresh and nonperishable food. I took portraits of Mistretta and shots of the produce refrigerator. I took photos of details inside the office, like a barcode that students can scan in order to request a pickup, making the process easy and efficient. 

I interviewed Taylor Cain, assistant dean of students, over the phone to get a second-person perspective of Mistretta’s inspiring values and work ethic. Cain knows Mistretta through the Student Government Association and has seen her step up to the leadership role successfully. Speaking with Cain augmented the story as she provided anecdotes involving Mistretta on the topic of being fearless and skilled to create a significant change. These are characteristics that are best noticed and discussed by a credible source that’s not the profile subject. Cain’s time working with student leaders (almost a decade) boosts her credibility in statements upon what traits have made Mistretta stand out as a leader. 

I wanted to be sure that there was an element of overcoming obstacles in this story, because that’s what Fresh Express does for students at UGA. Mistretta managed potential challenges in communicating with campus auxiliary services and other organizations, being able to convince them to fund Fresh Express. —Sarah Donehoo

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